Peasants to demand fast tracking of assistance for storm-ravaged coconut farms

By Julius D. Mariveles

PEASANTS in beetle costumes will dump coconut trunks outside the office of the Philippine Coconut Authority tomorrow, September 3, 2014 in Quezon City to dramatize their complaints over the delay in the rehabilitation of coconut farms damaged by storms, among them Typhoon Yolanda, last year.

“They have not yet received any assistance from the PCA after successive typhoons that left them jobless, homeless, and starving,” Task Force Mapalad deputy coordinator Lanie Factor said.

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Factor said that despite the P2.8 billion fund released several months ago to the PCA for the rehabilitation of coconut farms hardest hit by Yolanda, these coconut lands remain idle. Coco farmers have yet to receive a single centavo from the PCA, Factor added.

The effects of the storms have been made worse by pests such as coconut leaf beetles and rhino beetles, known as uwang in the local language, some of which have grown as big as cigarette packs.

Rhino beetles are damaging to coconut trees and other palms in the South Pacific and other coconut-growing countries. It is described as an accidental introduction into Samoa from Sri Lanka in 1909. For more details on rhino beetles, see this research.

Armando Jarilla, TFM national coordinator, told the PCIJ that the PCA rehabilitation plans consist of four -components: clearing of debris, fertilization, re-planting, and inter-cropping.

“The plan looks good but the problem is implementation,” he said.

He pointed out, for instance, that in the clearing operations phase, the PCA recalled the chainsaws for cutting down coconut trees since “the plan has yet to be studied again,” Jarilla said quoting officials of the PCA.

There is no supply of fertilizers, on the other hand, while re-planting has been halted because there is no no cash yet for the “cash-for-work program for farmers who have been telling me that there is work but they were told that there is no cash yet.”

Seedlings for inter-cropping, meanwhile, have not yet reached the ground and “we have seen seedlings just stocked at the PCA office,” he added.

Data from the PCA showed that there are at least 3.2 million hectares of land planted to coconut from 1990 to 2005, the highest hectareage in the Bicol region with more than 400,000 hectares. For the full list click here.

TFM added that around 100 farmers from the provinces of Quezon, Batangas, Leyte, Samar, and Davao Oriental under the Coalition of Coconut Farmers in the Philippines are expected to join the picket that would start around 10 a.m. at the PCA Central Office at Elliptical Road in Quezon City.

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